While millions work in the office or at home, millions of people are out in the field building, inspecting, selling, discovering, and exploring the outside world. Rugged phones are good to have in the field where you might drop your device, subject it to liquids, or get work done in very low or very high temperatures. The new Kyocera DuraSport 5G UW may be a good option and is priced at $579.99.
The Kyocera DuraSport 5G UW is available from Verizon and was tested on that network for the past three weeks. You can purchase it outright for $579.99 or spread the purchase out over 24 or 30 months with Verizon activation. In addition to its rugged design, the phone also sports a large 4,500mAh battery and mid-level processor, so it should get you through a couple of days of typical usage.
Earlier this year, I tried out the Kyocera DuraForce Ultra 5G, but that phone was a more typical rugged variant with wide bezels, bulky design, and a rather high $900 price. It was clearly built to withstand the elements but was a bit of a big phone. The Kyocera DuraSport is a much more elegant phone that is just about the size of the Pixel 5a 5G, meaning it's fairly pocketable.
pros and cons
- Sleek, minimalist design for rugged phone
- Verizon 5G support
- Solid battery life
- Useful outdoor utilities
- Reliable rear fingerprint sensor
- Minimal RAM
- Priced a bit high for a mid-range phone
At first glance, the Kyocera DuraSport 5G UW appears to be a mid-range smartphone that matches the Google Pixel 5A in size and design. It's a bit shorter and narrower but has a couple of cameras on the back, a center rear fingerprint sensor, and a USB-C port on the bottom. While the Pixel has an IP67 dust and water-resistant rating, the DuraSport is rated higher at IP68 and also has been tested to MIL-STD 810H drop standards. It is also encased in plastic with reinforced corners.
The display on the DuraSport has great resolution with crisp, clear fonts and a 60Hz refresh rate. A center front-facing camera consumes some of the display in the toolbar. It has a flat display with narrow side bezels and larger top and bottom bezels.
The edges are composed of textured plastic to help you hold onto the phone, with the back covered in matte black plastic. Power and volume buttons are positioned on the right side with a programmable button in the middle of the left side. The MicroSD/SIM card tray is installed above the programmable button on the upper left side.
The two cameras are arranged vertically on the far left side of the back, with the fingerprint sensor positioned on the upper center of the back. A USB-C port is on the bottom, along with a single speaker and microphone. There is also a mono speaker down on the bottom left side of the back, under the Unihertz label. The back panel has a matte, kevlar look and feel to it. The metal housing around the display and camera is substantial and a prominent design feature of this phone.
See also: Best Android phone 2021: Top expert picks.
- Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 480
- Main display: 6.1-inches 2400x1080 pixels resolution IPS LCD, Gorilla Glass 6
- Operating system: Android 11
- RAM: 4GB
- Storage: 64GB internal storage with microSD support
- Durability: IP68, MIL-STD 810H drop resistant
- Cameras: 48MP wide and 16MP ultra-wide (117 degrees field of view). 8MP front-facing camera
- Wireless technology: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.1, NFC, GPS/Galileo/GLONASS, ANT+
- Battery: 4500mAh non-removable with wireless charging and fast charging support
- Dimensions: 154.7 x 70.7 x 9.9mm and 185g
The evaluation phone I've been testing is currently running Android 11 with a 1 August 2021 Android security update. The phone should have a newer version of the Android security update by now, so this is a bit disappointing. It's not clear what Kyocera's track record is for security updates, but for phones focused on the enterprise, the updates should be coming at least quarterly, if not bi-monthly.
The phone runs a very stock version of Android with Google Discover as a home page, Gboard as the keyboard, and the essential Google apps installed. The app launcher is the standard Google one too. There are several extra apps and games installed in typical Verizon fashion, but you can uninstall them and clean up the phone. Some of the Verizon utilities are useful for managing your account, and Verizon features too.
Kyocera DuraSport 5G UW review: in pictures
There is an Outdoor folder with apps for a barometer, compass, outdoor portal, solunar, sun & moon data, tide data (very useful for marine salvage), and weather. The solunar app notifies you when wildlife is most active, which is largely a function of phases of the moon. The tide data also provides a fish index for expected fish activity in the area you designate. The outdoor portal can replace Google Discover as your far left home screen panel. You can also filter the data for activities like surfing, trekking, snow, fishing, and other custom activities you set up on the phone. There are definitely some useful utilities in the outdoor folder.
While the DuraSport is designed to withstand the elements, it's also a solid phone for capturing outdoor action. It has a couple of modes that are focused on sports. With Action Overlay, you can add elapsed time, travel distance, speed, G-force, altitude, date and time, map data, and weather to your recording or still image. For bike specific activities, you can enable Action Overlay Bike mode to add a grade, graphical altitude information, and heart rate/cadence/power when you have connected external sensors. The phone supports ANT+ for these sensor connections too.
See also: Kyocera DuraForce Ultra 5G UW review: Verizon rugged smartphone built to get work done everywhere.
Kyocera also includes a multi-camera mode so you can show the rear camera and front-facing camera at the same time in case you want to share your reaction while recording another subject. Other available modes include time-lapse, slow motion, night, pro (manual), and underwater. Underwater mode is great since it turns off the touchscreen and enables button controls for capture. This has been a struggle for me when trying to capture content in a pool or lake, so I appreciate this functionality.
Daily usage experiences
There is nothing particularly remarkable about the look of the Kyocera DuraSport, but it is built to withstand the elements and help you get work done out of the office. With the large battery and mid-range processor, the battery is sure to get you through at least a day and likely two between charges. It's also nice to see support for fast charging and wireless charging in a mid-range smartphone.
The sport-focused camera modes are enjoyable, especially if you like to record video content when you bike. The cameras perform well but aren't going to challenge Google or Apple for the best camera phone. Then again, you can feel pretty safe taking the Kyocera DuraSport to the beach or lake with you and capturing photos and videos without worrying about destroying your $1,000 phone.
The Kyocera DuraSport is a fairly stock Android phone; after you uninstall all of the extra apps, Verizon installs and performs well when running a few apps. The limited RAM and mid-range processor may be a bit restrictive for gamers or those who push the resources on their phones. The 5G support is great to see, and wireless performance has been solid. Phone calls sound good on both ends of a conversation too.
If you are looking for a phone that can survive some rough handling, has a solid two-day battery and is easily pocketable, then the Kyocera DuraSport may fill this role. The programmable key makes it a bit more useful when wearing gloves. Kyocera also has a two-year warranty to help you get back up and running quickly.